Making his mark
Real Madrid are starting to play like, sound like and win like Jose Mourinho players, says Guillem Balague.
Last Updated: 22/04/11 7:59am
With the El Clasico's coming thick and fast, so to have your questions.
While we are all waiting for Barcelona and Real Madrid to resume battle in the Champions League semi-final next week, our Guillem Balague has taken some time out of his busy schedule to answer your questions.
Last weekend's league encounter ended in a 1-1 draw but Real drew first blood with victory in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night.
Jose Mourinho has taken some stick for his tactics, but Guillem warns us not to expect too many changes in the first leg at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.
He also explains Barca's link with the St George's cross and wonders whether either of the big two will land David de Gea...
Making his mark
Hi Guillem, everyone is being overly -ritical of Jose's tactics in the recent Clasico but maybe he's already written the league title off this season and the last game was his way of trying to nulify the Barcelona threat and try a different tactic for the Champions League games? I think most Real fans would take the Champions League final of the La Liga this season. Barca have an ageing team in Puyol and Inesta so maybe, just maybe Jose's young guns can concentrate on the league next season? Craig Wilkinson
GUILLEM SAYS: It's true that some people have criticised Mourinho's tactics: but as far as Mourinho is concerned, the important thing for him is that the people who pay his wages, his players and the fans are celebrating winning a trophy. A lot was made of Alfrfedo di Stefano's comments, but his role as honorary president doesn't mean he speaks for the current regime at the club - and the actual president is backing Mourinho.
The club and the players are starting to sing from his hymn sheet, and that is significant. Mourinho is starting to get the level of control over transfers he wanted -he's already made two for next season - and is now able to do things his way, without having to go through Valdano and Pardeza. The players are starting to sound like Mourinho players, echoing their manager's statements and criticisms of those they feel stand against them.
I suppose that you are half right Craig, when you say that Mourinho was trying to nullify Barcelona. He was. And his tactic of applying pressure on them off the pitch worked as well. He avoided a repeat of the 5-0 humiliation earlier in the season in La Liga, and in the cup he carved out a win. But it would be wrong to expect him to try things all that differently in the Champions League: he's found a way of frustrating and beating Barcelona, so why should he change it?
He won't be expecting Guardiola to do things differently after all. That doesn't mean the Champions League games are a foregone conclusion or that we know exactly what's coming. The subtle tactical changes and personnel changes ARE going to be fascinating - even if we won't see a massive shift in the two sides approaches. I felt all along that Madrid would probably win the Copa del Rey but that Barcelona would bounce back stronger in the Champions - and that is still on. Barcelona will have learned a few lessons on Wednesday and defeat should shock them into remembering some of the things that they appeared to have forgotten: things like their movement in the final third, their pressing and pace of passing and the fact that Messi was too deep. Guardiola will work at fixing that, but there is the concern that they were also too tired to put it into practice.
You've asked about next season Craig: can Madrid concentrate on the league? Well, yes, they will. As I said, this is more and more becoming Mourinho's team; so they will be stronger. The difference between the two sides over the last couple of seasons had been down to the head to head results between them; but now that Mourinho has a blueprint for frustrating Barcelona, the gap is closing. And you are right, as Mourinho has said, Barcelona will need to replace numerous players over the next few years.
Can you explain the history behind barcelona having the cross of saint george on their badge? Gary Rockett
GUILLEM SAYS: That's quite an easy one to answer Gary: it's because St George - or St Jordi as we know him in Catalan - is the patron Saint of Catalonia. Consequently, the cross has always appeared on the FC Barcelona crest, ever since the club had it's own unique emblem designed in 1910. Before then, the club used the crest of the City of Barcelona, which also featured the St George Cross as well as the Catalan flag (the red and yellow vertical stripes you still see on the badge today). St George is the patron saint of several other places in Spain outside of Catalonia and he's also celebrated in countless other countries. I can recommend visiting Barcelona on St Georges day, by the way. It's a very big holiday, celebrated more than in England to be honest - and there is a tradition where men give women a red rose and in return, the guys are given a book. It's a big Catalan thing, hence the reason the symbol of St George appears on the Barcelona flags and emblems.
Keeping them waiting?
Will David De Gea want to join Manchester United? If he is as good as everyone is saying and at the age he is at, won't he be able to become Barcelona or Real Madrid's future keeper? Could he hold on at Atletico Madrid until of the Spanish giants come calling? Jamie Smart
GUILLEM SAYS: You managed to sneak two questions in there Jamie! The answer to the first one - will he want to join United - is: who knows? That's not dodging the question, because even De Gea himself doesn't know the answer to that one! He's completely undecided. He is very much at home in Madrid, at the club he's supported and grown up with - and his rapid rise into the spotlight means he is unsure whether he is ready to leave home. He's in his comfort zone, very much within the family fold and happy in Madrid with his friends around him. Imagine growing up in Manchester and dreaming of playing for Man City, the team your family and friends all support. Suddenly, within two years you jump from the academy to first choice keeper. It all happens very quickly and your living the dream, when suddenly, before you've had chance to take it all in, you get asked to leave your family, your mates, your country and move to Real Madrid. A big and terrifying decision.
Now to the second question: would he wait for Barcelona or Real Madrid? Well, we hear a lot of players in Spain saying that when a big club comes calling, 'it's a train that comes along only once.' What that means is that you cannot assume that you'll never get an opportunity, a player never knows what's around the corner. I do know that de Gea is being advised by his associates that the opportunity to sign for United may be too good to miss. United have told Atletico and the player that they would be prepared to meet the La Liga side's valuation in the region of €20 - €25 million (dependent upon taxes). They want him now - and it would be daft to turn a concrete opportunity down on the basis that you hope another will come along in a few years time.
But that doesn't mean he'll accept: because, it's easy to see how staying in Madrid represents the easiest option for de Gea, who is also being offered a new deal and a pay rise from €400, 000 to €1.1 million a year by Atletico. Van der Sar has told me there's no chance of him staying at United in any capacity, so de Gea would suddenly find himself bearing a huge responsibility on his own. That's a big decision for someone still learning his trade.
Got a question for Guillem? Then send it in here or use the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week.